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D-F selectmen appoint airport committee members

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — Several weeks after the selectmen passed a motion to focus on a solar project at an alternate site other than the town airport at the Charles A. Chase Jr. Memorial Field on Pine Street — the decision came following a 65-minute public hearing featuring nearly two dozen speakers and more than two dozen emails from around Maine and the country included in correspondence with all in favor of keeping the aviation space as is — town officials hope to keep the momentum aloft with the establishment of an airport advisory committee.

A half dozen committee members representing the board and the public were appointed during a Nov. 26 meeting at the Morton Avenue Municipal Building.

Observer file photo/Stuart Hedstrom
AIRPORT COMMITTEE — An airport advisory committee will oversee the Dover-Foxcroft airport at the Charles A. Chase Jr. Memorial Field on Pine Street. The group is made up of selectmen and aviators from the public.

Town officials had been considering the possibility of converting the 70-acre municipal airport with 7-acre runway into the home of a 4- or 5-megawatt solar power project. They are working with ReVision Energy on the solar project. The company evaluated Dover-Foxcroft for sites to potentially develop large-scale projects and create revenue through lease option agreements. New legislation provides opportunities for municipal solar initiatives, such as federal tax credits and rebates. The airport was identified as a prime site.

Selectman Scott Taylor said the week before the board’s promotion and development committee met with Kole Stevens, a hangar owner who was recently appointed as interim airport manager to succeed Steve Arno who oversaw the space for a number of years and wanted to retire, and resident Chris Arno. Arno has been active in the efforts to preserve the Charles A. Chase Jr. Memorial Field as an airspace.

“We got a lot out in the open on the layout where we want to put new hangars with the existing hangars,” Taylor said. He said the group also discussed the establishment of an airport advisory committee at its meeting.

“I think we’re heading down the right runway,” Taylor said.

Town Manager Jack Clukey said Stevens shared aerial photos to help with site planning. “As things grow nothing will get in the way of what we want to do,” he said.

Before the formal motion, Select Vice Chair Cindy Freeman Cyr said the airport advisory committee will be comprised of herself, Taylor and fellow promotion and development committee member Gail D’Agostino along with Arno, Benjamin Cabot and John Brenenstuhl to represent aviators from the public.

Arno said an idea mentioned the previous week is talking with Foxcroft Academy about a student pilot program. He said Brenenstuhl instructed students in North Carolina before moving to Maine several years ago.

Owners of the The Mill complex at the former Moosehead Manufacturing site downtown have given permission for the installation of a public seaplane dock on the Piscataquis River, Arno said.

“It won’t be much but there are lots of pilots that will be really excited because there are four or five restaurants right there,” he said.

In a post on the Save the Charles A. Chase Memorial Airport the week before the selectmen’s meeting Arno wrote “The owners of the Moosehead (Manufacturing) complex have graciously given permission to install a public seaplane dock at the former mill site. We will start with enough space for one airplane at first. I’m sure seaplane pilots will be excited about having a new spot to stop and get something to eat, visit family and have an alternative landing spot for emergencies! Look for these to be installed as early as possible in the spring of 2020. And you thought we were going to stop at saving the airport.”

The selectmen also voted to remove the interim from Stevens’ title as he is now the airport manager. He and the three citizen committee members were appointed to respective terms running through June 30, 2020. After that date they all could return along with other town positions during the annual reappointments.

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